Our family doctor is bound by secrecy. So are lawyers, school teachers, social workers, police officers, pharmacists, clergy. Heck, even journalists have an obligation to respect their anonymous sources.
With politicians, they too have a strict set of regulations and although leaks are certainly capable of happening, asking everyone to sign a gag order in advance is blatantly telling elected officials that “we don’t trust you.”
However that’s what Telus has asked the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.
As first reported by The Herald, this was a key debate at last Thursday’s RDOS public meeting.
We had never heard of such a request. Neither has Bill Newell, the chief administrative officer whose stellar resume includes working in municipal government in four provinces plus a territorial capital.
A Telus spokesman said this is how the company prefers to do business.
The in-camera briefing of RDOS directors will reveal “confidential technical information that our competitors would very much like to have,” Shawn Hall told The Herald.
Board chair Mark Pendergraft said the “conundrum” facing directors is they don’t know what they’ll be missing out on from Telus if they don’t agree to the gag order.
Hypothetically, the company may want to locate a major office in Okanagan Falls bringing with it 100 jobs. Possible, but unlikely.
The RDOS was clearly divided with its 14-4 vote in favour of supporting the gag order. Those opposed were Area C director Tom Siddon, Summerland director Richard Barkwill, Area D director Terry Terry Schafer and Penticton director Helena Konanz.
(Penticton’s other representatives Judy Sentes, Andrew Jakkubeit and Andre Martin all voted in favour along with seven others.)
As Siddon stated, “If they’re going to put up cellphone towers in somebody’s face, I think they should have the courage to do it in public.”
We could be worrying for nothing but what is so important that Telus can not trust in camera protocol, or even better still, hold the meeting in public?
RDOS directors must remember they represent the public, not large private corporations.